To really understand what Produce to the People is about you’re best off turning up on a Tuesday morning to see the dozens of people waiting at the door and the buzz of happy volunteers.
The North West organisation, founded by Penelope Dodd, works on the ethos of grow, gather, give and runs a food hub supplying hundreds of people each month with fresh, healthy produce.
“It started in 2009 when I had a glut of tomatoes growing in my backyard garden, I couldn't give them away because everybody I knew had a glut of tomatoes as well and I just wondered about potentially what was happening to other food that was growing in other people's back gardens, was it just going to waste if it couldn’t be shared?,” Ms Dodd said.
So began the gathering and sharing of excess fresh produce for people in need.
“We provide emergency food relief to the most vulnerable in the community so we've got a beautiful food hub that is set up like a green grocer store, anyone in the community can come and access the produce ... we don’t ask any questions of anyone who comes in because we think there should be dignity associated with access to food.”
Since 2009 Produce to the People has gone through many incarnations. Most recently it has taken on the Burnie Farm School.
Two acres of fertile land provides Produce to the People the opportunity to grow their own produce, reducing their reliance on donations and allowing Burnie High School students to be involved with a paddock to plate experience.
“When people walk through our gate they walk through a food forest, so they get to see how food is grown ... it’s just connecting people back with the source of their food.” Ms Dodd said.
The organisation not only benefits the health of the people it supports, but also their mental health and that of their many volunteers.
“We often find with the food hub yes people are coming to gather food, but it might also be the only social interaction they have for the week,” Ms Dodd said.
The operation of Produce to the People runs on the smell of an oily rag. It currently has ongoing state government funding but not federal funding and while it needs three full-time staff, it has one part-time staff member and a lot of volunteers.
“The question has to be really, ‘Is this a kind of program that we think government, on all levels of government, should be supporting?’ and if it is not then we need assistance in other ways to be able to generate income,” Ms Dodd said.
Ms Dodd said donations are always welcome to support their work, and they are seeking to partner with philanthropists.